Additional Western Oil tanks denied after neighbors, officials push back

Additional Western Oil tanks denied after neighbors, officials push back

CENTRAL FALLS – An application by Western Oil to install nine 30,000-gallon oil storage tanks has been denied after neighbors pleaded with the Central Falls Zoning Board to hear their concerns.

Those living near the Western Oil property on the Central Falls/Lincoln line said their quality of life is already impacted by Western Oil’s existing operation and that adding nine more storage tanks to the existing eight would only exacerbate issues they currently face.

William Delaney, representing Western Oil at the Oct. 7 Zoning Board meeting, said the company has been “a good neighbor and corporate citizen for years,” with no issues with police or fire and no violations with regulators.

He said the board approved four tanks in 2008 for this property and another four in 2012, pursuant to the same ordinances and comprehensive plan.

“They’ve never given the residents of Central Falls any issues relative to operations,” he said.

Elected officials and neighbors disagreed with Delaney.

Ward 5 Councilor Jessica Vega said she was against the application when it first came before the board last month and that her mind didn’t change after visiting the facility two weeks ago.

Vega said there’s a lot of pressure to “dazzle” people by growing and developing successful businesses in town. “The people behind me are developing the community as residents and taxpayers,” she said. “They’re coming to you saying: no, we don’t want this in our community. Your responsibility as a board is to respond to them and to respect their voices, not that of Western Oil.”

Ward 4 Councilor Franklin Solano said, “As a council member and resident, we welcome new businesses that bring benefit or value to our city. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case here. I have so many residents complaining about this and expressing concerns who frankly don’t feel comfortable with what’s going on here.”

Rep. Jim McLaughlin, urging the board to deny the project said, “My main area of concern is safety and the welfare of the people of this district, and that should be your concern as well. My constituents have unanswered questions regarding safety factors that need to be answered before a decision is made on this.”

Several officials penned letters to the board citing concerns with the project, including McLaughlin, Rep. Joshua Giraldo, Rep. Jack Lyle, City Council President Maria Rivera and two co-councilors, and Lincoln Town Planner Al Ranaldi.

Delaney moved to remove the letters from the record because each official claimed to be speaking on behalf of their constituents, he said.

For example, Delaney asked that Ranaldi’s letter be removed because Ranaldi claimed to be representing the town but that “no authorization” was included from the solicitor or Town Council.

City Solicitor Robert Weber said Delaney was welcome to object to any of the comments made but that members of the board could choose whether or not to take the comments into account.

“His objection is mainly made to preserve the record in case they appeal this to Superior Court,” he said. “Whether you want to take those letters into account when voting is certainly up to you.”

Neighbor and former elected official Daniel Issa said in his 35 years in elected office, “I never saw so many officials agree on anything,” adding that he’s “grateful that they’re standing up for the neighbors.”

“Nine additional tanks will impact the entire neighborhood’s real estate value and potentially risk nearby watersheds,” he said. “The city gains nothing but a black eye from this. How can you say the character of the neighborhood won’t be changed when you’re looking at a monstrosity like that?”

Fred Issa, his brother, strongly recommended that each letter submitted by a public official be kept “intact” as part of the record, should the case move to an appeal.

“I’m dead-set against this project and hope you will vote no,” he said.

The Zoning Board did just that, voting unanimously to deny Western Oil’s application for additional oil storage tanks.